Illustration for article titled Automakers Tech Race Is A Race To The Bottom
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Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.


1st Gear: The Cars Of The Future Will Be CASE Cars

BREAKING NEWS: Cars are becoming increasingly high-tech! How will automakers put resources into developing what’s being called the CASE car — connected, autonomous, shared and electric? According to a report from consultants AlixPartners covered by Automotive News, that will require increasingly huge investments of capital.

Or they can work together, the report says, and that doesn’t mean giving the world the Fiat Chrysler-General Motors merger nobody wants:

But according to AlixPartners, there are other options short of mergers, such as developing one or two technologies in house, and partnering with other automakers or technology firms for the others.

Already, there are nine arrangements in the industry today in which a car company owns equity in another, as well as 16 joint ventures, 17 assembly alliances and 15 technical alliances, the report says. These technology partnerships are already becoming more common, it adds, referring to Toyota’s new technical “marriage” with Mazda and Volkswagen’s 2012 purchase of Porsche as two recent examples.


Makes more sense. Team up for tech, compete in other ways.

2nd Gear: NHTSA Vows Reform After Scathing Audit

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, America’s auto safety regulator, is a deeply broken agency that has repeatedly failed to regulate America’s auto safety in any meaningful way besides scathing press conferences and middling fines after defects have come to light on their own. A scathing audit released yesterday showed just how troubled they are.


That audit wasn’t a good look, so now NHTSA is vowing to reform. One more from Automotive News:

For example, NHTSA plans more detailed data requests and more frequent audits of suppliers and automakers as part of changes that it outlined earlier to prevent failings similar to what occurred in the decade before the GM ignition-switch recalls.

Rosekind also has made strong calls for automakers to adopt a more “proactive” approach to vehicle safety and invoked previously unused agency powers to compel compliance.


Administrator Mark Rosekind has also called for more employees and more funding for the agency, which I suspect will be a tough sell to many:

He also has made numerous calls for more resources and powers that he says the agency needs to do its job. A work-force assessment released earlier this month said NHTSA’s defect investigation operation ideally would have 380 full-time workers.

In his response to the report, Rosekind noted that the agency’s Office of Defects Investigation conducted 1,060 probes that resulted in 1,889 recalls in the last decade with a staff of eight defect screeners, four early-warning data analysts and 16 investigators.


3rd Gear: Carlos Ghosn Isn’t Doing Too Bad At All

How much does the CEO of Nissan-Renault make? According to Reuters, $8.4 million last year:

Nissan Motor Co, Japan’s second-biggest automaker, said on Tuesday it paid Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn 1.035 billion yen ($8.39 million) last business year, up 4 percent from the previous year. Ghosn, one of the highest-paid CEOs in Japan, received 995 million yen in compensation in the year ended March 2014.


A 4 percent raise is pretty great when you’re Carlos Ghosn.

4th Gear: Takata Is All About Quality, Says Takata

What, you thought you’d escape The Morning Shift without Takata news? Psssh. Come on.


This one comes from The Detroit News, which reports Takata is firing back at a Senate Commerce Committee report that claimed Takata is making replacement air bags that are still unsafe.

Nah, says a Takata spokesman (which has to be the worst job in the universe right now):

“The report contains a number of inaccuracies based largely on old media articles that Takata has previously refuted, and emails that are taken out of context and characterized in ways that creates a false impression,” Levy said. “For example, the global audits referenced in the emails relate to the safe handling by employees of pyrotechnic materials — they were not, as the report implies, related to product quality or safety. Takata conducts regular reviews of product quality and safety at Moses Lake and Monclova, and at no time were those halted.


Well, I certainly feel better about things now.

5th Gear: Everybody Loves Jeep!

Jeep is easily one of the most valuable brands in the entire automotive world, and they’re a big reason Fiat Chrysler has seen such strong sales returns over the past year or so. And once production resumes in China (for the Chinese market, not for America, Donald) after Daimler pulled out a decade ago, growth will get even more exponential. One more from The Detroit News:

The increased production should lead the brand to its fourth-consecutive year of record global sales. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reports sales of the SUV brand were up 20 percent worldwide through May. That puts the Jeep on pace to top record sales of more than 1 million vehicles in 2014, which was a 39 percent increase from a record-setting 2013.


The world loves Jeep!


Reverse: Go Get Sideways In A W123 To Celebrate

On this day in 1902, German automaker Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) first registers “Mercedes” as a brand name; the name will gain full legal protection the next September.


Neutral: Yea Or Nay On Tech Partnerships?

I’d rather they team up to make non-crappy infotainment systems and connected car technology than merge into mega-conglomerates.


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